Meet Yindra; born and raised in Costa Rica, she moved to Toronto seven years ago and has since worked in restaurants with her chef hubby, Steve. Together they got a puppy, opened Baro, had a baby and got married. 10 months ago, burdened with so much uncertainty in the industry, the couple decided to take a leap of faith and move their little family of four back to Costa Rica, where they’ve recently opened Montezuma Latino Beach Food — a restaurant of their (and our) dreams on the beach.
Yindra, thank you so much for doing this! I can’t believe you’ve gone from Toronto to Montezuma. Literally best of both worlds.
Yeah and Canada is so special for me. That’s where I met Steve, fell in love, got our dog — Papichulo, had our baby Victoria. But I’m skipping ahead. We never planned on leaving Toronto. I love Toronto so much. Everything was perfect. We opened Baro in 2016. It was a great first two years, then we had Victoria. She was born pre Covid that year; everything was amazing. Remember pre Covid in Toronto? Just the best — no one will argue that. I love Toronto with all my heart, but then Covid hit and I had this baby and I was not working. And Steve, he's a chef. What he does is restaurants, and what I do is restaurants — I don't know anything else.
The first few months were really fun because we were spending a lot of time together and Steve was cooking a lot at home. And we thought it was going to be two months. It was going to be a honeymoon with Victoria, she had just started eating solids too. It was great. And then reality hit that this is not going anywhere. We were stuck at home. Baro was not open, they literally opened up in-house dining a couple weeks ago. That’s crazy! It’s been almost two years.
And life in Toronto is so expensive, we thought about moving to a smaller place...but with a baby and a 70lb overweight Australian shepherd, it just didn’t make sense! So I started doing the math and I was like, we should move to Costa Rica. And Steve, he says yes, because he thinks my ideas are obviously good, haha and he’s not going to say no!
And the beauty of what we do is that we can do it anywhere. We can open a restaurant. And what better place to do it than in my country, you know? My daughter's going to grow up the same way I did — obviously not completely the same — we had a lot of freedom and now looking back, my cousin almost drowned like three times! Haha. So not completely the same, but the lifestyle is so beautiful.
Agreed, that’s amazing. And not only have you moved to Costa Rica, but you've left behind this entire life you’ve built together. Can you explain how that felt?
Heartbreaking. I love Toronto with all my heart. That's where my daughter was born...Now I’m getting emotional. We got married there. It was hard. It's not something that I just have forgotten. But you know with Covid, everything we knew disappeared. And I hate just blaming that on everything, but really our life, as we know, you know, it disappeared. But I miss it so much. And it was not easy. I remember I cried so much. What are we doing? Is this crazy? And, at the same time, we were moving to a place where I have all my family and Steve had to leave behind his. But I'm good at adapting to situations in life. Wherever I find myself.
How do you do that?
I don't know. I guess I’m social, I'm positive. I like to see the best of everything. I can pick up on the vibes of people, and I choose good friends. I did it seven years ago when I came to Toronto with just two bags.
Wow. You've done a lot in seven years.
They say we change every seven years.
And you have changed like four times. So now you three (four including Papi) have moved to Montezuma and opened a restaurant.
We moved to San Jose first to my mom's house. We started looking for restaurants in San Jose and we would visit Montezuma during that time. I have a big family and they’re from this small town. My grandma had 12 kids. So I have cousins, uncles, and it's full of my family. But I never thought of staying there. It’s this small hippie town. And one of the times we were visiting my aunt called me and she said, I heard you guys are looking for a restaurant. Why don't you grab Tia’s restaurant? Then I was like, oh my god. My aunt ran a restaurant right on the beach for years, but then it was sold for around 20 years. And it just happened to go up for sale when we were there. I didn't even think about it. I didn’t ask, what's the state of it? I just straight up said yes. I said to Steve, that’s it, we found it. It's here. And it literally can not be more on the beach. If the tide is high, the waves are getting into the restaurant.
It sounds amazing. Until salt water rusts everything.
Ha - beach problems.
Yeah. It's obviously not major stuff. But we had to remodel the whole thing. Steve went to Baro for a month to do the summer menu in Toronto and launch. And I was left alone here doing the remodel. No one tells you what it is like to do building renovations in a small town. You have to take a ferry to get here. It’s like 6 hours from San Jose.
You guys couldn't have picked two more opposite places to live.
So opposite from the other.
And how are you feeling now, about 10 months later? Are you a little more settled? Tell me about life, Victoria.
Life is beautiful. Raising your kid at the beach. I'm really grateful. Victoria, she's always collecting caricacos in a bucket, which are these small crabs in their shell. Or looking through rock pools. I mean, it's just incredible. We live five minutes from a river and this river has crystal clear blue water. I love the big city, big buildings and everything, but we're so much healthier here. Your body feels healthy. Your mind feels healthy.
Right. In what ways would you say that you're a different person today because of this move?
Well I’m stronger. I had to be strong. Just for our family, for Steve. He just left his entire family, business and friends. And Steve, his friends, he just has so many friends and he's so well-known as a chef and person. Like going through the airport at 6 AM and someone’s like, hey chef, how you doing? So he was really emotional. When Baro opened the main dining room, he was like, I'm not there and I'm sad — but I'm here.
And that’s the thing too. People have really been responding to our restaurant. Everyone loves it. I have regulars from day one and we've been open for three months. Tourists come here and they say, we’ve never had a guac like this. And I tell them, if you only knew that we won three competitions for best guac until the judges told us we weren’t allowed to participate anymore!
I’m so happy for you guys. What would you say to other people who find themselves in a similar situation or are thinking about doing similar things?
Just do it. You have dreams. For me, I have goals in my life. Every time I have a goal, I'll reach it. Then I have another goal. I'll reach it. And it’s not easy. It’s really hard. When we were doing the renovations, I had someone tell me that I needed to assume my motherhood because I was so busy and wasn't giving Victoria my full attention. That got me so upset. There’s so much guilt and pressure involved with being a mother and balancing a business that I don’t think is necessarily put on men. And my daughter is going to know and respect hard work because of it.
And this would happen anywhere in the world. If you want to open a restaurant, it's going to be hard for the first few months. New beginnings are scary. You're out there as a family, or as a woman, or as a business person, whatever it is, and going for your goal — and you just do it, and it feels so good to achieve it.
I mean, I'm a mother. I have a business. I moved to another country. I'm living a beautiful life, I just sit down and enjoy that for a second and just breathe on it. I have to just take a moment. Like in the afternoon at the restaurant, around five, taking in all the colours of the sunset. Or, when you see the full moon reflecting on the water — it's just crazy beautiful.
Yeah. I imagine it's hard to regret any decision at that moment.
Hard to regret. Obviously I miss a lot of our old life, but I’m also happy and so grateful for this new one.